real life

What is pregnancy like after a stillbirth? Two women share.

Pregnancy, usually a time of excitement and joy. The exhilaration of seeing those pink lines appear on a pregnancy test. The delight of witnessing your bump grow. The thrill of hearing your baby’s heartbeat. The elation of feeling that first-kick.

This is the classic story.

But there many other stories. There is the story of the pregnancy marked with fear, stress and anxiety. Where every cramp or twinge results in a panic attack. This is the story of thousands of women who go through another pregnancy after the heartbreak and devastation of miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death.

This week, as part of Never Forgotten: Mamamia’s Pregnancy Loss Awareness Week we’re remembering the babies we’ve lost. Post continues below.

This is the story of two mums, Janelle Tsockallos and Lyndell Price and their journey through pregnancy following their losses.

While undergoing fertility treatment, Janelle suffered multiple early miscarriages and a late miscarriage, where she delivered twins at 18 weeks and 6 days gestation. After taking time to heal emotionally and physically she got pregnant again nine months after the twin’s delivery. Her daughter is now nine years old.

“We didn’t announce our pregnancy until I was 14 weeks pregnant, and that was only to immediate family and close friends. Although we were ‘cautiously optimistic that this baby would live, we had lost our naivety and innocence about pregnancy. We had no idea how long we would carry this baby.

“Determined to bond with our baby for as long as she was with us, we named her after we found out she was a girl at our 19 week scan.

“The pregnancy was such an emotional rollercoaster. It was the longest 40 weeks of our life. We were constantly praying to reach milestones in the hope that our baby would have a better chance of survival.

“During this time a lot of my ‘what if’ and ‘why’ issues re-emerged about my previous pregnancy and birth experience. What if I had gone to the hospital earlier, could the labour have been stopped? Why couldn’t I have held on until 20 weeks so my babies would have been entitled to birth and death certificates? Why do I feel so guilty that I could not protect my babies as mums should be able to?

“It wasn’t until towards the end of the pregnancy that we became more confident of the possibility of our daughter coming home with us. Mixed with the feeling of anxiety was a growing excitement and anticipation. Although we were now allowing ourselves the luxury of relaxing more about this pregnancy and our daughter’s future, we were constantly aware of the gaping hole left in our lives from losing our precious twins.”

“My advice to anyone going through a similar situation is to be prepared that your subsequent pregnancy may bring back memories of your previous pregnancy and the hopes and dreams you had for that baby. I also found that using positive affirmations and meditation went a long way in helping me to relax and manage the anxiety.”

After a first pregnancy that resulted in a miscarriage, Lyndell’s daughter Charlotte was stillborn at 29 weeks.

“After Charlotte’s death I wanted another baby straight away but also had to fight common sense of giving myself time to recover physically. I felt a strong sense of something unfinished and desperately wanting my own baby to hold. After three months we started trying again but I experienced three chemical pregnancies the following three months. This was very distressing for us and would throw our emotions up and down. After six months we did fall pregnant and in the end I am glad it took a little longer. We had passed Charlotte’s original due date, which in that first year was an important date that brought back all those ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ questions. So our new baby had her own space and in theory if Charlotte had of be born on time and alive, Rosie still could have come along too.

“I have two girls, Rosie, 3 years and Katie, 8 months. Both pregnancies were a very anxious time. Rosie was exactly one year and one day ahead of Charlotte, so many things matched up like the timing of appointments and the seasons. This gave a feeling of deja vu which made it harder at times. At 20 weeks we found out she was a girl and it was a big shock. I think we had hoped for a boy because we didn’t want this pregnancy to be like our last and if the baby was a boy maybe it wouldn’t end the same. Also, although we wanted a baby very much, we knew there was no replacing Charlotte. Having a girl we didn’t want people thinking that she was a replacement so we should feel better now.

“The best thing I did was to find care providers I had a good relationship with. I found a wonderful GP who I could talk to, an obstetrician who understood my anxiety and gave me extra appointments and monitoring, I hired a doula for some extra personal support during labour and I signed up for a midwife check in service where they called me every two weeks to see how I was going. I also stayed in touch with the Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Newborn Death Support group, Sands, who supported me throughout my pregnancies. I read a lot about pregnancy and birth and tuned into my babies. I knew their movements and what was normal. If I was worried, I went in to get checked and didn’t feel silly for doing so or worried that I was putting someone out. I knew it was better to be safe than sorry. I didn’t really enjoy my pregnancies. I was so very glad and grateful I was pregnant, but I could never just relax. Not until I was holding them and could hear their cries.”

An estimated one in four pregnancies (103,000) end in miscarriage in Australia each year, while approximately 3,000 babies are either stillborn or die in the first 28 days after birth.

If you need support for miscarriage, still birth or newborn loss, Sands Australia have a 24 hour help line you can call 1300 072 637.